P&T Group continues to build on its rich heritage that dates back all the way to 1868, expanding its project portfolio in the Middle East with numerous award-winning designs. Thinkers’ freedom lies at the heart of its philosophy, its architects leaving no stone unturned and reading between every line.
“Think before designing,” says Stephan Frantzén, Partner and Architect at P&T Group. Simple advice perhaps, but truly thoughtful architectural design is a rare and valuable commodity in times of rapid urban sprawl.
While the skylines of today are largely unrecognisable to those of even a decade ago, let alone the 19th century, P&T Group’s authenticity, attention to detail and pioneering spirit has more than stood the test of time. Indeed, 2018 will mark the firm’s 150th anniversary.
“Many old buildings – around 100 years old – are still standing, most famously the National Heritage buildings all along the Bund in Shanghai,” Frantzén points out. “The fact that these buildings are still in use is testimony to the design quality and to sustainability.
“A legacy like this carries with it a huge responsibility when we take on new projects, and the legacy inspires us to try and match the design quality of bygone buildings, importantly following the principle that good buildings never outdate.”
“My wife’s career took the family to Hong Kong in 1990 and I searched for the most international architectural firm,” Frantzén adds. “P&T stood out with its legacy and tradition of designing exiting and beautiful projects, shaping not only Hong Kong but many cities all over the Far East.”
William Salway set up the business in 1868, 20 odd years after Hong Kong was established as a British Colony and when the demand grew for building banks, shopping pavilions, clubs and offices.
Having secured a huge project win for a city plan in Dubai, P&T established an office in the Dubai in 2004, which now has 150 employees. Frantzén spent four years in London and New York before returning to P&T’s Dubai branch in 2008, driving projects forward.
Today, P&T Group is one of the largest consultancies in the world, drawing on a global network of 2,000 architects and engineers. Its Middle East project portfolio contains notable award- and competition-winning designs already.
The 70-story Burj Rafal is the first major project to be fully completed by P&T Group’s Dubai office. Home to stunning apartments and the five-star Kempinski Hotel, the tower required all of the firm’s vast high-rise experience as architects, structural and MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineers.
“Burj Rafal is at the moment the tallest completed tower in Riyadh, and it received the award for ‘the most sustainable large project in Saudi-Arabia’ some years ago, based on our in-house best practice in MEP,” Frantzén explains.
Another flagship hotel, nearing completion, is the Viceroy Hotel on the Palm in Dubai. “It will be spectacular with a 16 stories gateway structure containing guestrooms on the sides and a ballroom spanning across the opening on top,” Frantzén says. “The ballroom views are amazing: the Marina towers and beach hotels to the west and views of Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa to the east. Restaurants flank an 80m infinity pool that ends in a beach club and the beach. It will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable hotels in Dubai.”
P&T’s project scope in the Middle East does not stop there. Turning from hospitality to hospitals, the company is working on one of the largest hospital developments in the world in Riyadh, with 1,200 single bed wards. Other projects in progress include a multiple hotel complex in Aqaba, several residential projects in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, a headquarter complex in Dubai and a residential development in Bahrain down to the Gulf.
Frantzén also reveals that P&T has a residential tower under construction in Lagos, with another hotel also being designed. “We see more projects coming out of Africa, possibly in Ethiopia and Senegal,” he adds.
Trust, thoughtfulness and reliability have formed the backbone behind P&T’s formidable growth into the global design giant it is today.
“P&T is known for working closely with clients, developing and expanding visions and finding opportunities, creating synergy and adding value,” Frantzén explains. “In simple terms we do thoughtful design that is appealing, where humane scale and functionality is key, and buildings are future proof.”
By utilising its expertise, P&T secures 100 percent of a project’s development investment, often saving its clients time, money and reducing maintenance efforts. Frantzén and other partners like to be involved close up with projects, combining their top-level strategic roles with the hands-on design work they remain so passionate about.
“One has to understand what is at hand, read between the lines and try to reveal every relevant opportunity,” Frantzén says. “Architects used to work in their home country and be specialist, understanding local materials, technology, culture etc. Today architects work all over the world and have become generalists managing design to a great extent.
“Being all over the world means that we must learn and understand local culture, traditions, local climate and find suitable solutions, using suitable materials, and this can be good. We are all victims of ‘habituation’ meaning that we stop reflecting over things that we get used to. The danger is that we stop thinking.”
After discussing how difficult it can be to educate true thinkers - designers and architects of tomorrow - Frantzén revealed some of the criteria he looks out for when recruiting new talent. “Most important for us is to recruit people that relate to our projects, are open minded, imaginative, intelligent and have a positive and dynamic attitude,” he explains.
The urban conundrum
With more than half of the world’s population living in built up areas today – a trend that is only going to strengthen as populations continue to grow – Frantzén believes that urban design is the greatest challenge facing the industry, together with sustainability.
Frantzén concludes: “We add to the dialogue about urbanism wherever we are and in Dubai that means we share experiences from the Far East on Smart Cities, sustainability being a large part of this. We share our knowledge from our offices in the Far East: how the likes of Singapore gives incentives to create elevated gardens in high rise and adding sculptures in public areas, and how Hong Kong has elevated climate protected walkways linked to subways, busses and trams.
“P&T is taking an active role in city planning, master planning and shaping urban spaces between buildings through the work we do, and with the momentum we have going this seems to continue, maybe for another 150 years.”